The man accused of murdering Sarah Payne repeatedly refused to answer detectives' questions after her disappearance and death, a court heard.

Roy Whiting, 42, answered "no comment" to almost every question during a series of taped interviews held at Bognor police station following his arrest in July last year.

Transcripts of the interviews were read out at Lewes Crown Court yesterday during the seventh day of the Sarah Payne murder trial.

Whiting denies kidnapping and murdering the eight-year-old.

Police also released the first pictures of the inside of Whiting's white Fiat Ducato van taken after it had been stripped bare by forensic experts looking for clues.

The court heard evidence from Detective Inspector Jeffrey Riley, who conducted several interviews with Whiting following his arrest on July 2, the day after Sarah was snatched from a country lane near her grandparents' home in Kingston Gorse.

Mr Riley said before every interview Whiting was reminded he had the right to remain silent but anything he withheld and then later relied on in court might be taken into account when considering the evidence.

Whiting was asked about his movements around the time Sarah was abducted, the clothes he was wearing and about items found in his van. To every question Whiting answered: "No comment."

Crispin Aylett, junior barrister for the prosecution, asked Mr Riley about the first of a series of eight interviews lasting more than four hours, which took place between July 3 and 5.

He said: "Mr Whiting was asked about his movements on Saturday July 1 and about his white van and he made no comment to any of the questions put to him."

Mr Riley answered: "Yes, that's correct."

Whiting refused to answer what he did for a living, whether he worked in the Kingston Gorse area and whether he knew the area well.

He said he had been advised by his solicitor to make no comment.

On July 4, he was asked about items recovered from the van including a white T-shirt and a length of rope. Whiting refused to explain why these items were found.

During the sixth interview on July 5, Whiting was given a special warning of the consequences for failing to provide an explanation for the scratches found on his body. He again refused to make any comment.

Later that day, during a seventh interview, he was given a further warning after failing to provide information about a checked shirt found in his van.

After the eighth interview, Whiting was released from police custody and asked to return at a later date.

He was subsequently arrested on July 31 by which time Sarah's body had been found in a shallow grave off the A29, near Pulborough.

Whiting refused to answer any questions put to him about the area where Sarah's body was found and about a spade and blow lamp found in his van.

The only time he made any other comment was in a brief outburst during questioning about a receipt for a temperature control switch.

Mr Aylett said: "He was asked what was the transmitter for and replied, 'No comment'. He was asked whether it was for his vehicle. 'Well, it wouldn't be for a bloody aeroplane. would it? This is bloody stupid'."

Whiting was questioned about other receipts regarding the vehicle that were found in his van but again he refused to comment.

Mr Aylett asked: "He was asked whether he kidnapped, indecently assaulted and then killed Sarah Payne and did he say 'no comment'?"

Mr Riley answered: "Yes, he did."

Earlier in the hearing the court heard a statement from forensic scientist Trevor Oliver. He was asked to compare the spade found in Whiting's van with soil castings of the grave in which Sarah's body was found.

His investigation indicated the grave had been dug with an implement which did not match that found in Whiting's van and led him to conclude it was extremely unlikely the spade was that used to dig the grave.

Evidence was also given by scenes of crimes officers Anna Maxwell and Patricia Cooper, who examined Whiting's van and its contents for a week in July.

The court heard officers recovered 302 exhibits from the van, which were then bagged and sealed.

Officers also took soil samples from the wheel arches and checked for hair and dust samples inside the van.

The vehicle was checked for fingerprints and the seat belt clasps, door catches and window winders were checked for evidence.

Ms Maxwell said: "Items were placed on brown paper so I could look for signs of blood presence. If there was something obvious, that was the time I would have seen it."

The jury was also shown a red sweatshirt in Whiting's van.

Ms Maxwell told how she placed the sweatshirt in a brown paper bag to prevent it from being tampered with or contaminated.

Several months later, a single strand of Sarah's blonde hair was found by forensic experts on the garment.

Other items removed from the van on July 3 last year included a clown pattern curtain.

A fibre from the curtain was found on one of Sarah's black shoes, which was spotted at the side of the road by a passing motorist close to where the youngster's body was found.

The court heard police officers also collected hundreds of items of clothing and other belongings from Whiting's flat in St Augustine Road, Littlehampton.

Scenes of crime officers recovered 433 exhibits during two weeks, the jury was told.

Detective Constable Philip Mullan said he had spent more than 100 hours searching the flat in the days after Whiting was arrested.

He said: "We recovered everything that could be of evidential value and if we were not sure we would take it anyway. Each item had to be bagged and sealed and labelled separately."

Items included a sleeveless tartan shirt, three pairs of black socks, similar to those found in Whiting's van, and a course directory for the Brinsbury College of Agriculture.

Mr Mullan said: "It's no exaggeration to say we went through it with a fine-tooth comb, although we did not examine every item."

He explained how officers in protective clothing took fingerprints, swabs and imprints of shoe indentations on the flat's carpet.

In addition, photographs were taken of every room from a number of angles.

The trial continues.

November 27, 2001